The Oregon board of education is accepting applications to fill a vacant seat on the board until 4 p.m. on June 27.
P.J. Kapfhammer resigned his seat on the board at the start of the board meeting on June 10.
“We have 30 days from the time of the vacancy to appoint someone,” said Jeff Ziviski, vice president of the school board. “If we don’t, it’s out of our hands and an appointment will be made by a judge.”
Ziviski said the successful candidate will be a “team player.”
“We’re looking for someone who can be supportive of the administrative team as we look to improve the district,” said Ziviski. “We’ve gone through the controversy and the shakeup that had to happen in the district,” he added, referring to the tension between former Superintendent Dr. Mike Zalar and members of the board before he resigned last year and was replaced by Dr. Lonnie Rivera.
“We have all the pieces in place. We’ve made changes in the last two years. We need someone who can help move the district forward in a calm and professional manner. I’m 100 percent behind Lonnie. We don’t need to go through that whole battle again. We need the right people in place to move forward. We’re looking for someone who is non-political who can work within our system. We don’t need the politics. We are negotiating with the teachers’ union and have a levy coming up in the next year and a half that we have to get done,” he said.
Among the major changes in the district in the last two years are the appointment of Rivera and the reconfiguration.
“We just completed the first year of the reconfiguration, and it’s been very successful. We’ll see that reflected in the state test scores in the next couple of years,” he said. The reconfiguration consisted of combining grades 5 and 6 in one building, grades 7 and 8 in another building, and maintaining kindergarten through grade 4 in one building in an effort to improve educational efficiency.
“Besides hiring Lonnie, we’ve had other administrative hires, including Jim Jurski as Clay High School principal, Mark Beach as the athletic director, and Mike Lee as head coach of Clay High School football. Those are some key administrative hires who are on board with the strategy we have to move the district forward. We are all moving toward that goal,” said Ziviski.
The district has also restored bus service, which had been eliminated by the previous school board in 2011 to reduce costs. “We have the same ridership district-wide as we did prior to the cuts,” said Ziviski. “We reinstated busing to a level that accommodates all students who used bus transportation prior to the cuts.”
Significant board decisions will also have to be made regarding contract negotiations with the Oregon City Federation of Teachers, and whether an operating levy should be placed on the ballot.
“Negotiations with the teachers’ union is priority one. We have to get that wrapped up,” said Ziviski. “And at some point before the end of next year, we have to look at placing a levy on the ballot.”
Kapfhammer’s resignation appeared to have caught officials by surprise. After calling the June 10 meeting to order, Kapfhammer, as president of the board, asked the crowd to rise for the Pledge of Allegiance and a moment of silence afterwards. Fruth then called the roll of board members Ziviski, Heather Miller, Carol Molnar, and Mike Csehi, After the roll call, Kapfhammer would customarily proceed with the start of the agenda.
But not this time.
“Before we move forward, I’m going to take a couple minutes and get off the beaten path here,” he said. “I would like to, uh, make a motion to accept my resignation as president of the board of education. I’m asking for a second,” Kapfhammer said, choking back tears. Nobody did.
“Do what I say,” said Kapfhammer. “Second…”
Molnar seconded the motion. “Discussion?” asked Kapfhammer, which is standard procedure. “Call the roll please,” Kapfhammer said to Fruth. When Molnar’s name was called to vote, she paused before saying “yes,” followed by affirmative votes from the rest of the board, including Kapfhammer. He then nominated Molnar as board president, and Ziviski as vice president, which were approved by the board.
“Madame President, I would ask you to accept my resignation as an Oregon School board member today,” said Kapfhammer, his voice filled with emotion.
“I will take that resignation,” said Molnar.
“Thank you,” said Kapfhammer, his voice trailing off, as he got up and left the room.
The board sat in stunned silence for several moments.
“I hope I don’t make too many mistakes,” said Molnar. “This is quite a surprise.”
The board then voted to meet in executive session, which is not open to the public.
“This was quite a shock to all of us,” said Molnar when she reconvened the public meeting.
“I’ve known P.J. for a long time,” Rivera said at the end of the meeting. “I grew up, went to school with him. I know in the community people either love him or hate him. In my time as a superintendent, he’s let me do what I need to do. He’s helped our staff. The one thing I’ll say is that he’s a bleeding heart for kids. And I believe a lot of what happened tonight is that he felt [resigning] was in the best interest of kids. I believe that’s why he did it. But none of us knew anything that was going on tonight. It was quite a shock.”